ASHLAND – Dr. Juanita Reese Kline was the youngest of five children and remembers her father talking about his raising her elder siblings in the time of polio.
Kline, who chairs the Department of Nursing at the Ashland University Dwight Schar College of Nursing, said that during her father’s life, “he had opportunity to witness the outcome of the poliovirus and later the benefit of the polio vaccine. … When I came along, nearly 30 years after my brother was born, I was the only one of my father’s children to receive the polio vaccine. I remember my father expressing how grateful he was that I was able to receive this vaccine as a young child. He did not have to worry that I would contract this crippling and often deadly disease.”
With that in mind, Kline said she believes the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks. And she, like her other colleagues in AU’s nursing and science programs, said they believe in the science behind those vaccines. Here’s what they told AU Campus Wellness director Dr. Deborah Sullivan when she asked them to comment on the vaccine.
Drs. Jeffrey Weidenhamer and Paul Hyman said they will get the vaccine when it is available.
“I have confidence in our public health agencies that have vetted the one vaccine thus far that has been given the emergency use authorization, and hopefully there will be others soon,” said Weidenhamer, Trustees' Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. “Being vaccinated not only protects those who get the vaccine, but those among us who may be immuno-compromised or who cannot get vaccinated.”
Hyman, Professor of Biology and chair of the Department of Biology & Toxicology, focused on the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which will most likely be available the soonest. The two vaccines together have been tested in clinical trials with nearly 75,000 people but since the trials were placebo-controlled, only half -- about 37,500 people -- have received the vaccine.
“What data do we get from those 37,500 people?” asked Hyman. “ Among them, there were 95 percent fewer cases of symptomatic COVID-19 infections among the vaccinated group compared to the placebo group. There were highly predictable adverse effects – pain at the injection site, tiredness, fever, chills. head and muscle aches. These are predicted because they happen to a greater or less degree with many vaccines because they are a result of the immune system reacting to a sudden, large dose of antigens – exactly the desired outcome of a vaccine.
“If the immune system doesn’t react to the vaccine, the vaccine isn’t working.”
He noted that outside of the clinical trials, the first injections in Britain saw two people, prone to anaphylaxis, have an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine. They were treated with epinephrine and recovered.
Could there be other reactions that will be seen as more people are vaccinated? “Yes, but the frequency of those reactions is likely less than 1 per 37,500 people since they haven’t been seen yet,” he said. “That’s the data on the vaccines, reviewed by expert panels at the FDA: 95 percent protection against serious disease and less than 1/37,500 (0.00003 percent) chance of a serious adverse effect.”
Hyman said that if he doesn’t get the vaccine, there is a good chance he will be infected at same point. “ I am in an age group with underlying health conditions that mean I have about a 7 percent chance of dying. (In addition), 10-20 percent of survivors have long-term symptoms due to organ damage.”
He weighs that 7 percent chance of death and 10-20% chance of long-term adverse effects from the disease against the less than 0.00003 percent chance of adverse effects beyond in the initial injection from the vaccine. “That’s the data and I can do the math,” Hyman said. “I plan to take the vaccine.”
“As we are in the midst of a pandemic with a multitude of controversies surrounding it, the one thing I am sure that is not a controversy is the value of human life,” said Melissa Irwin DMSc, PA-C, chair of the Department of Medical Science. “The medical literature guides our medical care and when there is a vaccine such as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s that have been shown in phase 3 clinical trials to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 we have to rely on science to guide patient care.
"By taking the COVID-19 vaccine, you not only help to protect yourself but take steps to protect others.”
Kline said that despite the current pandemic, she feels “very blessed and fortunate to live at this time in history when we have knowledge, science, and technology, along with safety measures, related to vaccines. It is remarkable how the scientific community, as well as other appropriate organizations, have worked together across the globe to develop vaccines against Covid-19.
"Because of this, I feel that we have hope that we can reduce and prevent the incidence of this very contagious and potentially life threatening infection.”